|Noiria: Mistress of Shadow|
Former ruler of Monkaa
|Name||Noiria: Mistress of Shadow|
The Great Gear turns. Ever has it turned and ever will it turn. Through war and peace, joy and tragedy, bounty and famine, life and death, forever will it turn. So it was many turns ago that the noble Kingdom of Light and the mighty Empire of Shadows found themselves at the threshold of peace. Long had they fought without a victor, for there can be no shadow without light nor light without shadows. It is their very nature to be at odds, so odd indeed it was to find the possibility of peace.
The Lord of Light and the Mistress of Shadow had, against all sense and nature found love. They believed their love could unite Kingdom and Empire and forge a new future for Monkaa. So arms were set aside and a new age began for this world. The culmination of this peace came with the birth of the first son of the Lord and his Lady. Prince Penumbrus was to be the first of the Sons of Shade, heir of the new Realm of Light and Shadow, a balance to the two opposing forces that would inherit the realm and forge a lasting peace. He was born precisely at twilight, just as the suns set and night was nigh, and Lord and Lady were overjoyed.
But while Penumbrus was born a healthy robust youngling, the Mistress of Shadow was yet weak and remained in the birth haze despite having already bore her child. The Lord of Light was confused and feared for his beloved, until the following dawn broke and the Mistress of Shadow bore a second son. Smaller and weaker than his older twin brother, the second son had mottled skin and crooked limbs, but his eyes shone bright and clear and the Lord and Lady loved both of their sons equally.
The Great Gear turned and the infants grew into fine young warriors. Penumbrus was everything the Lord and Lady had hoped for. Handsome and commanding, he was every bit the leader they needed him to be. His younger brother, though deformed, was a loyal and kind soul, and held no jealousy for his brother, for he knew his was not the path of leadership.
However, the melding of light and shadow is not so easily achieved. True, twin sons had been born. Both were inheritors of shadow and light, but could not have been more different. While the younger brother carried a bright shining soul under his dark, deformed exterior, the elder had a dark heart beneath his princely countenance. Penumbrus' heart was dark. Dark as darkest shadow. He was not content to inherit his parents’ kingdom, and hated his father, the Lord of Light. For though Lord and Lady ruled together, it was the nature of light to shine brightly, while shadow supported and strengthened from the margins. Penumbrus only saw this as his father greedily eclipsing his mother and the great power of Shadow. The joining of light and shadow was the dream of a fool. Equality was a useless compromise and the worst sort of weakness. Light must be broken by shadow, made to serve. And all, light or dark would serve Penumbrus once he ruled. Sadly the Lord and Lady knew not of the darkness in their elder son's heart. To all of Monkaa he was a shining beacon of hope, and the world dreamed of peace not knowing it would soon plunge into the darkest of nightmares.
So it was that the Lord of Light took his sons on a climb to the highest peak of Monkaa. At the peak he told his sons, "Look upon the majesty of our world. One day soon Penumbrus, you will rule Monkaa. It will be your burden to keep this hard won peace in our realm."
As the Lord of Light turned to speak to his younger son, Penumbrus whispered, "Sooner than you think, old fool", and he stabbed his father in the heart with the Blade of Shadow. Four times the blade struck and when the Lord of Light staggered to his knees. Penumbrus tore the Crown of Light from his father’s brow, taking his power. He hurled his younger brother into his dying father's arms and pushed them both off the peak. "Now Monkaa is mine!" he roared.
The bodies fell, finally crashing to a halt at the base of the mountain. The Lord of Light was mighty; some say the mightiest being on all of Monkaa. Even a blade to the heart might not have killed him, but as they fell he had turned and protected his younger son, using the last vestiges of his power to take the full impact of the fall. Before he struck the unyielding earth, the Lord whispered to his son, "...Empyreus, the fate of Monkaa is in your hands...you must resurrect the Light..." And so it was that young Empyreus rose from the protective grip of his dead father, dreams of peace as broken as his heart. He buried his father at the base of that great mountain, just as he buried all love for his brother.
The Great Gear turned and Penumbrus, now king, secured his rule over Monkaa. The Mistress of Shadows, heartbroken at the loss of her beloved husband and younger son, grew weak. It was not long before Penumbrus was able to create a soul siphon to drain the Lady's power like a leech, forcing her to slip into a suspended yet deathless state. Using the combined might of the Crown of Light and the Blade of Shadow, Penumbrus created Shade Demons to conquer the realm and enforce his will. With both the Crown of Light and the Blade of Shadow, Penumbrus alone could open rifts to other worlds and other realms, plundering and conquering. His power grew, so too grew his insatiable greed and soon no world was safe from him.
Penumbrus was not all-powerful, however. Though he possessed the Crown of Light, he could only control it with the support of the Blade of Shadow, and the Mistress of Shadow was the only being with the power of pure Shadow left on Monkaa. Penumbrus could drain her power endlessly, but he could not simply kill her and take the power as he had done with the crown. So Penumbrus hid his mother away, far and deep where none could ever find her. Her last words before he sealed her crypt haunted him. "My son, your father and I made a grievous error. Light and Shadow cannot be melded, not even through love. Each must exist for that is the balance and way of the cosmos. For what we dared we are cursed, and so too are all of our people..."
Soon Penumbrus discovered the meaning of his mother's words. Since the day the Lord of Light fell, no children had been born on Monkaa. Tales of strange pulsing stones and odd primitive beings born of the very elements of Monkaa abounded. These beings, called Gohlem were neither light nor shadow, good or evil, but grew and changed in a myriad of different ways. Some were drawn to Penumbrus and his power, but others wandered Monkaa choosing their own paths.
Many found their way to Empyreus. Stronger and harder after years in exile, but still generous and kind, Empyreus forged a brotherhood out of these new Gohlem. First among equals, he named his new clan The Gearo. Empyreus learned that the Gohlem had an elemental link to the very fabric of the world of Monkaa and could create tools and weapons of great power. The Gearo worked and trained and forged and when they were ready they marched against Penumbrus and his Shade Demon hordes. Many battles were fought, many lives lost and much destruction wrought. The former peoples of the Kingdom of Light and the Empire of Shadow gradually died out, all but replaced by the Gohlem. Empyreus and his Gearo pursued Penumbrus and his Shade Demons relentlessly. Finally the brothers faced each other, alone, in a blasted wasteland in the deepest part of the Sea of Sands.
Empyreus was brave and fought with righteous fury, but Penumbrus was ever the stronger and held the Crown of Light and the Blade of Shadow and his brother was no match for him. Finally, bloody and beaten, Empyreus lay at his brother's feet. "Fool! You are no better than our weakling father. All is MINE, and now I will burn you as I should have years ago." But as Penumbrus prepared to use the power of the Crown to destroy his brother, something wondrous happened. The Crown burned. It burned with the fury of a thousand suns. It burned Penumbrus. It burned his head and face, turning it into a ruin and a horror, the stuff of nightmares. He fell screaming and the crown rose in the air to settle on Empyreus' brow. Just as Penumbrus was the son of Shadow, Empyreus was the true son of Light. The Crown of Light had sensed a kindred spirit and merged with Empyreus, healing his deformities and wounds and sheathing him in a gleaming shell of bright crimson armor. Broken but undefeated Penumbrus hissed his hatred at his brother, "Whelp! You may have father's power now, but I am still the Lord of Shadows. You may have killed Penumbrus, but you will never defeat the Shadows! You will never defeat Umbreus!" And with that the creature that was once Penumbrus, now renamed Umbreus, turned and slashed open a dark rift with the Blade of Shadow and escaped into the darkness.
Empyreus and his surviving Gearo returned to the shattered remains of the Realm of Light and Shadow. He and his clan built the Citadel of The Gearo as a beacon to all Gohlem who would follow a path of right and good. Empyreus knew he would forever battle his brother to protect Monkaa and all the worlds beyond, for now he held the power of Light, just as Umbreus controlled the power of Shadow. So each time Umbreus opened a rift to conquer and plunder, Empyreus too opened a rift to arm and protect. Though Monkaa had changed, and it's denizens had changed, the battle of Light and Shadow, of good and evil continued. The Great Gear continued to turn and as it turned so were born the Weaponeers of Monkaa.
Lava Strike Force
"Hmm... brothers..." said the lady with a smile, "...yes...how appropriate. I am a mother who has lost her sons..." Suddenly, her tired eyes opened wide with a look of utter clarity. "He's coming," she murmured fearfully.
Ehmber and Fyreball didn't need to be told whom she meant. We lifted the lady to her feet and as we held her she seemed to touch our souls. She smiled. "You are unique among your kind...I think we can help each other...join hands," she said.
They did and felt that familiar explosion of light building. But this time it was not random, it was controlled, as this dark lady, The Mistress of Shadow, was guiding our newfound ability to open rifts when connected to one another. She smiled again and we winked out of sight, out of the bright, bleak prison of light.
They materialized far from Castle Umbreus. Ehmber and Fyreball built a stronghold in back of a narrow ravine Noiria brought them to, hewing a comfortable yet extremely defensible home out of the bedrock. There is something called a Lifespring hidden here. She says there are a few others like it scattered across Monkaa in secret kingdoms. It does Ehmber and Fyreball no good but it has worked miracles with their new mistress’ wounds. Most of her hurts are now healed. The ones you can see anyway. The Mistress was still weak from her ordeal at the hands of Umbreus, so it took a few months for her to regain her full strength. Much of her power was diminished, drawn away through the blood Umbreus had taken from her to fuel his Bloodlust powers. So Ehmber and Fyreball used their internal fires to bolster her power where this Lifespring is unable. They nurtured her body as she nurtured their minds and taught them how to hone their mimicry and forging skills. She spoke of the other Lifesprings and other tribes. She shared with them many secrets of Monkaa, secrets her lost sons never knew. She told them the sad history of the War of Light and Shadow and her imprisonment, while Fyreball told her and Ehmber of lonely days fighting to survive in the bowels of Castle Umbreus. Their shared tragedy at the hands of Umbreus has built a powerful bond between them. They have become a family.
The Pit is no more. The Magma Gohlem are gone. The Mistress of Shadow is gone, at least as the rest of the world is presently concerned. They are the Lava Strike Force and they will protect their new mother, Lady Darkfyre. They still have much to do. Their ten brothers and sister remain shackled in the gallery of horrors buried beneath Castle Umbreus, their heartstones calling to them. The three still desire a reckoning with Umbreus, but that will all come in time. They will rebuild their brotherhood, and one day repay Umbreus for the cruelty and evil they have all suffered at his hands. For now they continue to build their strength, striking from the shadows and lighting fires where we may. They are the flame in the darkness, burning ever bright. May they find new allies and make new enemies, but they put family, their family first. Always.